(3.21) Just like the great elements such as earth,
And like eternal space,
May I become the basis from which everything arises
For sustaining the life of countless living beings;
(3.22) And, until they have passed beyond sorrow,
May I sustain all forms of life
Throughout the realms of living beings
That reach to the ends of space.
If we’re practicing giving like Shantideva then we have a wish to be whatever others need, not simply to do what others want. We want to be what they need. We think, “if others want me to be someone other, I’ll be that person for them.” With total faith in Dorje Shugden and a loving heart like Shantideva, we offer ourself to others pledging to become whatever we need to become for them to be able to provide them both temporary and ultimate benefit. We have an attitude that is ready to endure whatever we need to endure. We are ready to go through whatever we need to go through.
For me, the easiest way to do this is to view my ordinary self as like a karmic reflection or echo or synthesis of all the delusions and negative karma of those I love that I have taken upon myself through my previous practice of taking. When suffering arises within our body, delusions emerge within our mind or negative karma ripens in our life, we strongly believe that this is the suffering, delusions and negative karma of all living beings that we have previously taken upon ourselves. We then believe that – like Jesus – we work through these things for living beings so that they don’t have to. What do living beings need? They need somebody to do this for them. This is why Jesus is so powerful in this world – he meets this need. But so can we, if we train diligently in correct methods for long enough.
With these verses, Shantideva reveals how the truth body Dharmakaya of a Buddha is of the same nature as his emanation body. Normally we speak of a Buddha’s emanations, as if they are a multitude of individual emanations. But in truth, all of conventional reality is a fully integrated blanket of emanations functioning as a whole to liberate living beings. It is only due to our ignorance that we see conventional reality as a samsara instead of as the unfolding of Buddha’s emanations in this world. The pure conventional nature of all things is a Buddha’s form body, and the pure ultimate nature is a Buddha’s truth body. These two are inseparable, like gold from its coin.
To become someone else, to become the person that others need, means we need to change our behavior. We know what we’re currently like when someone has a problem with our behavior. Normally, we think “it’s their problem, not mine.” And sometimes that is true. Offering ourself to living beings does not mean we offer ourself to their delusions and it is now incumbent upon us to satisfy their every deluded wish. “Helping” others in this way doesn’t help them at all. But to offer ourself to others does mean it is incumbent upon us to try meet their legitimate needs and help them in wise and compassionate ways. This requires extraordinary flexibility of mind and of behavior. We become whatever the other person is looking for, whatever others want us to be.
Gen-la Losang once told the story of his utter surprise when he took a flight with Geshe-la from the U.K. to America. When he boarded the plane in the UK and was saying goodbye to those who saw him off at the airport, he was a perfect English gentleman, humble, reserved, composed in his behavior, etc. When he got off the plane in America, he started hugging everyone and being all light and playful. Geshe-la simply spontaneously became “American Geshe-la!” A senior teacher once told the story once of how he had a dream about Gen-la Losang. There was somebody stuck in some thorn bush, and in the dream the teacher was looking upon the person wishing strongly that they be free. Then, Gen-la Losang came into the dream and, without a moment’s hesitation or concern about the effects on himself, dived into the bush and pulled the person out. Then this senior teacher woke up and realized he had work to do.
Are we to cultivate such an approach to life? If we don’t, the results of enlightenment won’t come. Such is the power of Shantideva’s love that he wants to be whatever living beings want. If we have this wish, then in the future we will actually be able to manifest all things wished for by living beings. This thought to give, to be whatever is needed by others, acts as a cause for such results in the future. Such a joyful, expansive mind is the perfect mental space for taking the Bodhisattva vow. Imagine all day long having this mind. What would you feel like? You’d feel like you were in heaven, wouldn’t you? You actually would be. Geshe-la once famously said, “the mind of Lamrim is the pure land.”